What is Byte? TikTok's new social media rival explained

What is Byte?
(Image credit: Byte)

There’s a new social media site looking to fill the Vine-shaped gap in all our hearts. Byte, the somewhat-official successor to the bygone short-form video platform, shot to the top of the App Store charts after its unexpected launch on January 24.

It seems today’s teens aren’t as devoted to TikTok as we think. Byte gained traction rather quickly, amassing at least 100,000 downloads on the Google Play Store and earning the #1 spot on the iOS App Store in its first weekend. 

Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann resurrected the 6-second looping video format hoping Byte has a longer shelf life than its predecessor, which shut down in 2017 after failing to monetize. 

So welcome back, Vine. Or Byte, I guess. But will it last against the viral meme-maker TikTok? Here’s everything you need to know about the new social media app.

What is Byte?

If you remember Vine, you know the drill. You can upload clips from your camera roll or use the built-in camera to capture content. Adhere to the 6-second time limit and hit publish to start the loop on your "byte."

The discovery page lets you explore viral bytes and discover creators. You can view feeds curated by interests, too, like animation or fitness. Follow accounts you dig and “rebyte” clips to help the app show you more of what you might like.

Byte vs. Vine

Vine, as popular as it was, lost its top creators to more profitable platforms like YouTube. The Twitter-owned app announced its end in 2016, and closed shop for good in early 2017. Those who mourned might think Byte is exactly whats missing from the internet ever since.

Like Vine, Byte's 6-second length limit facilitates no-filler content. If you have a story to share, you might need to use some ingenuity to tell it quickly. The result is punchy quotes and blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments.

But Byte has a plan to keep key creators active this time around: opportunities to earn. It says it'll launch a partner program to compensate those who nourish the Byte community.

Byte vs. TikTok

It's only been around for few days, and Byte's most popular content is already glaringly anti-TikTok. Labeled as a “creativity first” platform, Byte seems to prioritize what TikTok’s formula quashes: originality.

Much of TikTok's content consists of people copying each other and participating in viral challenges. While it's fun to get together with friends and recreate popular videos, Byte wants its users to have a space for making more authentic content. 

For now, though, Byte lacks TikTok's editing suite of AR filters and transition effects. Instagram and Snapchat also contribute to the expectation of filters, so Byte might consider diversifying its current offerings. 

Byte has a spam problem: What you need to know

Soon after launch, users noticed Byte is overloaded with spam comments. It appears people are trying to profit on the platform's upcoming partner program by fishing for followers and likes in the comments section on others' videos. 

Byte has addressed the issue in a blog post, however, and says it's a "top priority" to squash the spam bots.

TikTok has thrived despite similar spam problems, so there's no reason to think a few follow-hungry users will undermine Byte's early efforts. Especially if its developers are fixing it as actively as they say.

Still, it's hard to guess if Byte has what it takes to compete in the crowded social media landscape. But based on its success on the download charts, it's clear that interest in a Vine-like app is out there.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.